tv This Week in Northern California PBS January 28, 2011 7:30pm-8:00pm PST
captioning by vitac, underwritten by fireman's fund >> belva: president obama's state of the union echoes across the country with a message for silicon valley. >> we're the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices, the nation of edison and the wright brothers, of google and facebook. in america, innovation doesn't just change our lives. it is how we make our living. >> belva: polls show strong voter approval of governor jerry brown as he prepares to deliver his state of the state address on monday, even as he faces opposition to his plan to eliminate redevelopment funding. with education facing deeper cuts, what new forces may help
shape the future? and the u.s. supreme court rules that federal judges cannot overturn state parole board decisions. that's coming up next. >> belva: go ahead evening. i'm belva davis, and welcome to "this week in northern california." joining me on our news panel, scott shafer, host of "the california report" on kqed public radio. louis freedberg, senior reporter with california watch.
and lisa, reporter and columnist for "the contra costa times," and carla marinucci with "the san francisco chronicle." carla, what parallels do you see between the problems in washington and california? >> huge parallels. we saw president barack obama this week in the state of the union, whether it's him in washington or jerry brown here in sacramento, look, we've got high unemployment we're both dealing with, lots of red ink, lots of pressure from republicans to make big cuts. and lots of pressure from their own loyal opposition that they have to keep on board. and this is the balancing act that both of these two guys are facing. you're looking at barack obama. you heard him mention google and facebook saying innovation, education. those are the themes. those are the watch words. and jerry brown saying some of the same things as he's trying to make the case -- we'll hear him in the state of the state, and lisa, you'll be walking
about that -- this is the problem that both of them have. i mean, it's about budget cuts. it's about concerns. and it's about balancing these deficits and this competitiveness agenda that both of them are talking about. >> one big difference is that jerry brown may not run for re-election. he may be a one-term governor. barack obama is certainly going to run for re-election. >> this is a major issue. seen as the kickoff of the 2012 presidential election. and so a huge vision speech. more than an hour long vision speech about things like high-speed rail. and that it is a huge issue to california, and it is a huge issue to the republicans who want to slash -- >> belva: he said i was a vision guy before this guy was a vision guy, when jerry brown was elected many years ago, that was his whole platform was a vision for the future. >> you know, and we're actually seeing that, although don't expect to hear some hour-long
state of the state address from jerry brown. his inaugural speech, short and to the point. and in a lot of ways, a lot of tough medicine as barack obama dealt out also. but both of them, i think, tried to give that sense of optimism. it's funny, this is where the reagan optimism comes in. they both learned that lesson that is -- the idea that america, california, can be great if we invest in the future. but there's all this red ink to deal with. and that is the problem that both of them have. >> but carla, obviously, when you're talking about the state of the union, you're talking about the state of the states. and all these states, including california, are just in terrible shape. and i didn't hear that much coming from the president about the challenges really facing the state or any sense of any kind of bailout or helping on the way. did i miss something? >> i have to say, obama did
mention a couple things very near and dear to california's heart. and when we went to high-speed rail, and that is an issue that has been a lightning rod in washington. his goal is in the next 25 years to make high-speed rail accessible to 80% of americans. california has been a huge recipient of billions of dollars of funds. $11 billion now under way. there's a lot of controversy about this project. and the republicans would just like to see that get drop kicked. >> your point was some of these republican governors are actually rejecting the money. i think california got some additional money. >> i think they turned down some money. that's right. >> because they think it's a waste of money, require them to spend money nationally. just one difference, big difference, another big difference between the two of these guys, though, is obama doesn't have to balance the budget. jerry brown does. and it gives him a lot fewer options. >> absolutely. when you're talking about, it's
sort of an innovation agenda in california. here you've got jerry brown talking about ending or shutting down 400 redevelopment agencies. i know you talked about this, but this is one of the things, some of these mayors are saying, look. this is where our innovation and our growth is coming from. there's also the whole issue of taxes. as we know, brown's saying look, we're going to have to extend a lot of these taxes. the republicans both in congress and up in sacramento are just dead set against it. so this is a battle royale that we're facing here in california, i think, we're seeing a reflection of a lot of the national themes on a very big stage. the nation's most popular stage. >> the fact that jerry brown doesn't have a lot of republicans peering over his shoulder, except he doesn't need two-thirds in the legislature, barack obama, you know, had john boehner sitting behind him. that's a totally different dynamic.
>> that is a change. and jerry brown has got, of course, both houses of the legislature behind him. but he's got to win over a couple of these republicans. and many of them have signed no-tax pledges. this is going to be -- he is taking the case right to them. and i think when we talk about watching obama with a very big and often eloquent speech about how we in america do big things, that is sort of the same thing that you hear jerry brown talk about but in a much more sort of granular way. that is, look. california can be great, but we've got to get this budget together. first. that's his number one deal. and i think that's what you're going to hear him say. that's going to be his message when he does the state of the state. >> lisa, we'll start with you because one thing jerry brown has going for him are good poll numbers. good news from the pollsters this week. >> well, depends on how you read
the polls. two-thirds of the poll of respondents said they like the idea of having a special election for these, you know, five-year temporary, the temporary tax syndrome. yet, you know, the support for the actual tax increases was less. and so you get the sense that people want to have a say. but whether they'll say yes remains to be seen. and it's still a long time from any election. we're still a long way from having any idea what would actually be on the ballot, what would be contained in the ballot. would there be republican votes for something to go on the ballot right now? they're all saying no. it could be very challenging for the governor to use these numbers. now, you know, granted, it makes for good, you know, headlines to be able to say all of these people support the idea of an election. an election for what. what are we going to vote on? >> one of the things about a special election is that the turnout tends to be a little smaller, tends to be a little
more conservative. what is he doing already to entice those voters? and not only the republican votes he needs in the legislature, but looking down the road a bit to june in the special election, what's he doing to kind of build trust and support among those folks? >> well, my sense is that he's trying to be very direct. i mean, a parallel with obama is both of them have a very strong pragmatic streak. and the members of the legislature out in the east bay say that, you know, jerry brown is -- he's accessible. he's there. he comes to their offices. they know him. they can talk to him. and in that sense, i think, jerry brown is building stronger relations. they're building relations which they already had with these legislatures in order to win them over to get their vote. >> i'm wondering if some of these symbolic things he's doing are winning support. absolutely. >> cutting the cell phone. today it was the cars. >> the picnic table in his
office. >> he doesn't want people to stay long. >> and they're hard benches. >> they're hard benches. he's delivering hard news and hard information. my sense from the legislators that i've talked to is it's just a refreshing shift from the schwarzenegger administration which had a very different feel and style. >> i talked to the mayor this week who said he invited her in for a cup of nescafe, out of the '50s. he actually talked to them. >> kumbaya. >> belva: there were groups that weren't feeling so friendly, and those are big-city mayors. >> the mayors are fit to be tied over some 400 redevelopment agencies across the state, you know, divert $1.7 billion into the general fund, eliminate all of these programs that these cities love. almost every city in california has redevelopment agency. and they have been able to put
forward a lot of their favorite projects using this money. but this is money that comes away from schools, fire districts, other local agencies that would go to those areas if that money -- >> let me ask you, because based on past history, democrats tend not to really get along that well with other democrats when they're in the governor's office and the legislature. jerry brown has said he wants this budget passed. is it by march? to what extent are democrats going to come on board? or to what extent is there going to be a huge battle around the details of the proposal? because it's brutal. >> it is. >> the cuts are brutal. >> it's absolutely brutal. and i think it may come down to whether or not jerry brown can deliver some republican votes. because if he has the votes from the republicans to actually pass something, the democrats will have a lot of heat on them to come around to some agreement. >> have to do something like pension reform. throw that one out there. >> they're going to have to tie
pension reform to this. the democrats are not excited about that. they think it would be too complicated. it would be too hard for the voters to understand. some kind of tradeoff. the labor unions are not having it, and they have a very powerful voice. >> we've got to put that off until after the special election. to your point, the only thing worse than what he's got on the table is what happens if this special election doesn't happen. if they don't pass the budget, and then they'll have to find $12 billion more in cuts because there won't be the revenue he's hoping for if these ballot measures, whatever they turn out to be, are passed in june. >> and unlike barack obama, to steal a line from another brown, willie brown, yesterday, this is the last rung on jerry brown's political ladder. at his age he is unlikely to run for higher office. he has bet all of his chips on this move. >> that's helping him. >> in making his case. he has everything to gain and no political agenda out into the future, trying to angle -- >> at least we think.
>> we don't know. jerry brown can be unpredictable. >> belva: let's go back to the basics. what does he have to do by what timetable to get moving here? >> well, he needs to get the legislature to pass a budget by march and to put -- get the language of a ballot measure approved so it can go on the june ballot. and i don't know the exact date in march. perhaps you know, scott, being in sacramento. i'm not certain of the precise dates. it's a very tight time frame. the budget committee directors are all holding, you know, rapid-fire hearings in which there are all these support groups are coming forward and saying people will die if you do this. >> the good news is they now, because of the election in november last year, they don't need a majority vote. they can get a budget passed with just democrats, basically. so i guess that will help at least get the budget passed. >> and having a budget without the means to pay for it, which requires the two-thirds vote, seems sort of an empty gain in
my opinion. >> belva: which moves us around to one of the biggest spots up there to fill, and that is money for education. so the governor has been pretty hard on higher education. so tell us where that battle is. >> this is -- and it relates directly to what we're talking about, and the special election really will have a tremendous impact on what happens next in terms of education. but yes, jerry brown has cut $1.4 billion from higher education. $500 million from university of california. $500 million from csu. $400 million from the community colleges. he's calling for fee increases for community colleges. actually, most people support because the community colleges are still the best deal in going maybe in the whole world from an education point of view. k-12 schools, he's kind of held steady. although there are some cuts, and he's deferring payments. but you have to remember that the school -- holding steady is at last year's level which was
already a very low level, and schools have had to lay off staff, increase class size, shorten the school year. so it's not as if schools are in great shape. but the key is, of course, what happens in june with the special election? because all bets are off. if that tax extension or increase, depending -- >> belva: what's the new news? >> well, the thing that's complicated about it is at the same time that you have all these cutbacks going on is also these presses for reform. and there's a number of new organizations, groups emerging. michelle ree, the chancellor from washington, d.c., is moving to sacramento. she's opening the headquarters of this new organization called students first. she's engaged to the mayor of sacramento, kevin johnson.
and this was just announced this past week. she has set a goal of raising $1 billion and signing up 1 million volunteers nationally. she's being a little coy about what exactly she's going to be doing in california. but obviously, based in sacramento. it's hard to imagine somebody with her profile. >> it can be no coincidence that she chose -- this has nothing to do with kevin johnson, but california being the state, the trend setting state. what kind of battle does this set up -- >> one out of eight school kids in the united states are in california. she is a pro-charter school. she wants to abolish teacher tenure, change the way teachers are evaluated. >> although she's seen as a visionary, what kind of battle does this set up with these powerful teachers unions in sacramento when you're -- at the time when -- it's potentially huge. >> jerry brown who likes to talk about reform a whole lot but
doesn't want to anger the teachers union. >> jerry brown, very interesting, he appeared before the state board of education a couple of weeks ago and admits for the first time and kind of bared his soul about what he thinks about education reform. he expressed a lot of skepticism about reform trends. he didn't address specific issues, but he expressed skepticism about the testing. he talked about character and having teachers forming close relationships to kids. i mean, things that the reformers don't talk about as much. >> but jerry brown as a candidate also made sure to mention many times that he founded two charter schools in oakland, that he saw that as one of the lynch plins of his accomplishments. >> he's not saving it as the central element of his platform. >> belva: tell us more about her plan. what exactly does she plan to do with this $1 billion when she raises it? >> they just announced this in
december. she has a lot of corporate support, a philanthropist from los angeles, one of the first people who said he'd be supporting her, says she's getting a lot of support from californ california. it's very much ending teachers' tenure. now, right now in california, once you've passed your probationary period of two years, it's not actually called tenure, but you have to be fired for cause. you can't just fire them. the first two years you can do that. she wants to eliminate that. she also wants to give teachers pay based on merit of performance. she wants to include test scores of students as part of the evaluation process. and so all these are controversial issues, and the teachers union is not going to look too kindly on it. >> california has a new superintendent of public education, tom torlikson. is he another player in this battle, you know, that carla has
referred to about -- i know he's not necessarily going to be in favor of a wholesale shift of charter schools. >> definitely a player. i think it's interesting how brown has situated himself. he is in a very powerful and central position in terms of education agenda in california. he eliminated the education secretary, which is traditionally part of his cabinet. he did go and meet with the state board of education. the head of the state board is his previous chairman, president, mike kearse from stanford. and so he has sent a signal that he is going to be directly involved. >> belva: and we're out of time right here now, but there are other organizations in addition to the one that she wants to establish. >> one very interesting new tla which is a dissident group within the united teachers of l.a., the very powerful teachers union which the mayor a year ago said is against reform. gloria rivera, the former state senator, has a group called
democrats for education reform. she wants to go up against the democratic party which she says is in the pockets of the teachers union. so there are all these new forces that are merging that we have to see how it plays out. but things are going to become very interesting. >> belva: okay. that's the state. revolving around money and reform. scott, your story's about the u.s. supreme court who wants to see some changes in the ninth circuit here in terms of their powers to make decision on parole. >> it does. and there's also a budget, the implication for all that which we'll get to later. this is a case of the supreme court this week overturning two decisions that the ninth circuit court of appeals, the federal court of appeals in san francisco had issued last year. it had to do with a couple cases of two inmates, one of whom was convicted a few years ago of attempted first-degree murder. he was given 11 years to life. another was convicted in los angeles of murder, first-degree murder and was given seven years to life. and in both of their cases, in
one case the parole board denied their appeal to get out of prison. and then the other case, the parole board said yes, you should be paroled. you've changed and all those things. but the governor, governor davis, rejected it and didn't allow him to get released. both inmates appealed those decisions, one from the governor, one from the parole board to the appeals court, federal court. and after looking at it, the appeals court said, you know, the state was unreasonable. these two guys should have gotten out of prison and ordered the state to release them from prison. the state appealed to the u.s. supreme court, and the u.s. supreme court said no, no, no. you had no business, really, getting involved in this. it was a little rebuke to the ninth circuit which has a real tension-filled relationship with the u.s. supreme court. in fact, one of the judges who was overturned this week had two other decisions overturned last week. so very contentious relationship. >> this whole issue of parole really applies to prison overcrowding, which is a huge issue, as we know, financial
issue here in california. how is this going to impact this? how is this going to apply? >> in a couple ways. one, there's another case that the supreme court has heard arguments about. it has to do again with the ninth circuit and steven rinehart, liberal judge, ordering the state to release 140,000 inmates, not dangerous criminals but people who will not be a danger of society in order to alleviate overcrowding. the u.s. supreme court may say again you're wrong, the state does not have so release those folks. that would have huge budgetary implications. obviously the overcrowding in state prisons is just one of several reasons that the prison budget is $9 billion or $10 billion. it certainly is going to have an effect there. one interesting thing, we have a new governor, jerry brown. it's going to be interesting to see, does he have a different approach on parole? >> the former attorney general. >> former attorney general. you know, he's going to have 6
of the 12 parole board appointments to make in the coming seven months. so it will be interesting to see if he puts people on there who have a different attitude about rehabilitation and parole, or if he does what his predecessors have always done. >> he has proposed a pretty significant shift in prison population to the local level, which, you know, maybe will come with enough money to pay for it. probably not. does this affect that in any way? >> well, the supreme court decision doesn't. you know, in terms of the county jails, the local officials are saying hey, we're overcrowded, too. so we really don't have room for these folks. but, you know, one other -- this is another issue, of course. but related, you know, jerry brown's also going to have an appointment to the state supreme court. carlos moreno announcing that he's retiring. so in the coming weeks, we'll get a sense of where jerry brown is going on the crime and punishment issue. my guess is he's not going to want to appoint somebody or any
of those positions that's going to create a distraction from the real issue which is the budget. >> and he has to face the issue of what this means when you're talking about overcrowding to the state budget. he has a budgetary problem as well as philosophical one as to how he feels about parole. >> one of the interesting things is that he's proposed a $400 million increase for the prison budget, which actually hasn't gotten that much attention. and then he also cut the rehabilitation budget by $150 million. already cut $250 million under arnold schwarzenegger. what signal does that send to you? >> well, i mean, it would indicate that he's going to continue to be, as we've seen, tough on crime. but it could also be kind of a bargaining chip. put that in the budget. knowing the democrats will want to take that out. you know, mayors, executives always do that kind of thing. they'll put something in knowing that the budget is really a negotiation. and it's something that they expect will come out. and that could be, you know, what it is. or it could be a real reflection of his philosophy. given all the other demands that
california has for programs, i'm not sure. i'd be surprised if that's really a top priority. >> belva: what about the influence of the new attorney general? >> yes, carmela harris, one of the underlying fundamental problems in california is the recidivism rate. 70% of inmates who leave prison on parole go back for minor parole violations, a lot of them. and so i think one of the things carmela harris is going to do is look at how can we reduce that recidivism rate so when people get out of prison, they stay out of prison. with job training and support in the community. those kinds of things. because that is a huge contributor. >> and when he was mayor of oakland, this is something he became acutely aware of because all these people are coming back. >> that's right. >> so that should shape the discussion. >> it should. you know, i think that you can find -- it's one of those issues, i think, if you craft it properly, you can find support on both sides of the i'll. >> belva: well, i want to thank all of you for joining us tonight to talk about two
gentlemen, the president and the governor. money would mean everything, if they had a little more of it. that's all the time that we have for tonight. visit kqed.org/thisweek to catch up on complete episodes and segments. and then you can subscribe to our newsletter and our podcasts and share your thoughts about the program. i'm belva davis. good night.